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Schwartz Center in downtown Dover hints at new life with holiday show opening Nov. 6

Emily Lytle
Dover Post

After years of a mostly silent stage, the iconic Schwartz Center in downtown Dover is once again turning on the spotlights for a special holiday performance slated for Nov. 6.

The Downtown Dover Partnership is joining with Delaware State University to welcome community members to the restored opera house on South State Street, where they can enjoy classic tunes from The Cartoon Christmas Trio.

Tina Bradbury, operations manager at the partnership, said she is grateful they can reopen the theater as the holiday season begins. Besides a few children’s theater productions, the theater has been closed since 2017.

“The Schwartz Center, to me, is the anchor to our community," she said. “It’s part of the arts, and the arts drive feet to the street here in downtown Dover. And it brings a liveliness to the downtown area that we love seeing."

The Schwartz Center for the Arts was originally constructed in 1904 and known as the Dover Opera House.

The show will begin at 7:30 p.m., and guests will arrive at one of two assigned entrance times to encourage social distancing. During that time, a Dover-native band, The Fig Tree, will perform.

The band has been playing downtown throughout the fall, and Diane Laird, director of the Downtown Dover Partnership, said the group will be a big part of November’s celebration.

“You will have entertainment from the moment you walk in the door until you walk out,” Laird said.

THEATER:Effort afoot to breathe life into Dover's Schwartz Center

The Cartoon Christmas Trio, founded by bassist Rob Swanson in 1995, will perform music from Vince Guaraldi’s "Peanuts" soundtracks, among other holiday favorites. 

The popular trio has performed at the Kimmel Center in Philadelphia and hundreds of other shows and live appearances on NBC, ABC, Fox and NPR. Swanson said they played at the Schwartz Center about 10 or 12 years ago.

“We are super psyched to come back down there,” he said during a Facebook Live with the partnership.

How to get involved

  • For tickets, visit Tinyurl.com/DoverChristmasTrio
  • Tickets are $12, and kids 12 and under are free.
  • To volunteer, visit Tinyurl.com/DoverChristmasTrioVolunteer
  • For more, call the Downtown Dover Partnership at 678-2940

COVID-19 precautions

Tickets are limited, and Laird encouraged people to buy online now. 

After buying tickets, people will receive specific instructions about when to arrive and where to find parking.

Diane Laird, DDP director, (left) and Tina Bradbury, operations manager, (right) join lead singer Luis Figueroa of The Fig Tree to announce the First Friday celebration, which will feature performances by The Cartoon Christmas Trio at the Schwartz Center Nov. 6.

The Downtown Dover Partnership is encouraging groups of families or friends to arrive together to avoid gathering in the lobby. Guests will give their names to a volunteer who will check a list and grant entrance.

Volunteers will be sanitizing areas that people touch often, and extra masks and hand sanitizer will be available.

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Every other row of seats will be blocked off, and volunteers will help guide people so the audience is spread out.

Other downtown festivities

Since the show is part of the Downtown Dover Partnership's monthly First Friday celebrations, the nonprofit organization is encouraging people to explore downtown.

Starting Tuesday, participating merchants will offer raffle tickets with a purchase. While at the show on Nov. 6, people can enter their tickets to win a downtown-themed prize.

Before the theater doors open, Mayor Robin Christiansen will join the DDP at 4 p.m. for an unveiling of downtown murals along Bradford Street and on the Family Dollar on Loockerman Street. The murals of colorful birds and a “Greetings from Dover" sign have been ongoing projects for the past year and a half. Giveaways will be available.

In the meantime, the partnership is looking for volunteers to help usher, clean, park and receive guests. Anyone aged 15 years or older can sign up and receive free tickets.

The show and related festivities are sponsored by the Delaware Division of the Arts and the National Endowment for the Arts.

More holiday happenings

On Saturday, Nov. 28, keep an eye out for special hours and deals as businesses in downtown Dover celebrate Small Business Saturday.

On Friday, Dec. 4, Dover will combine the traditional Capital City Tree Lighting with extended shopping hours for a special First Friday.